The touch-optimized browser had been set to launch on Jan. 21, with the release of Firefox 27; now Mozilla is pushing back touch optimization to Firefox 28, a delay of six weeks. Add in the two-week vacation that Mozilla decided to grant employees last month, and the projected release date is now March 18.
Mozilla has been working on a modern-style version of Firefox for almost two years, and has even released experimental versions of the browser as part of its nightly builds. But development has been repeatedly delayed, and last fall Mozilla wasn't even certain whether it would release the modern-style version.
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"Whether or not the Metro Preview Release will graduate from Aurora to Beta and Release channels is still to be determined," Mozilla said in notes from a planning meeting in September. It's unclear whether this attitude has changed, but for now, Mozilla is aiming at a February 4 beta release before launching the stable version in mid-March.
For now, Windows 8 tablet users have no good alternatives to Internet Explorer. IE11 is a fine browser, especially with the improvements Microsoft made in Windows 8.1, but it's nice to have a choice, and Firefox's bookmark syncing is helpful if you're also using Firefox on Android, Mac, or an older version of Windows.
Google already offers a modern-style version of Chrome, but it's barely different from the desktop version and doesn't support pinch-to-zoom. An overhauled version of Chrome that mimics the interface of a Chromebook is in beta now, and should reach the stable channel later this month.